Let’s Talk Books: Resources for Book Discussions

Unless you are reading out loud to someone, reading is pretty much a solo activity. But it is far from solitary. Books for tweens and teens don’t fly off library shelves (or become bestsellers) because someone read the book. They fly off the shelves because readers talk about them.

  • Sometimes it is as simple as telling a friend (or the Twitterverse) all about this great book they just finished.
  • Other times it may be because they are in a book club.

For the longest time I thought of book clubs as a formal event: everyone agrees to read Book A and on a certain date, everyone comes together to talk about it. Having a structured book club can be a great option, certainly in a classroom environment. But, maybe …

  • there is no time in your schedule (or your child’s) for another event;
  • reading on someone else’s schedule doesn’t appeal to you (or them); and/or
  • you are  readers who don’t like to speak up in groups

So how do we bring those conversations about books from the library to the house without becoming a classroom? We’re glad you asked. Here are some ideas on ways to socialize – and emphasize! – reading at home, without a formal book club.

Start a Conversation

It doesn’t have to be a Norman Rockwell event. If everyone is having dinner together or your teen is munching a PB&J sandwich at the counter, it doesn’t matter. Breaks for meals are ready-made opportunities to ask your child about what they’re reading (even if its for school) AND for you to share what you’re reading (even if its an article you found interesting).

For teens, you’re likely to get a “I’m not reading anything” answer. Don’t give up. Ask them about some of their favorite authors or books they “used to love.” 

Get a Summary + A Few Reviews

online book reviewsIt helps to start the conversation if you know a little about the book your child is reading or has read. It only takes about 10 minutes to find a summary and read a few reviews. Bookseller and publisher websites can give you decent summaries or blurbs, but they are not a reliable place to get real reviews.

If you use a site like Goodreads.com, you get the Amazon.com summary (Goodreads is an amazon.com company) but the reviews are by readers.

Find the Discussion Guides

If you’re like me, you don’t always know how to get kids to start talking about what they’re reading.

  • What are some good questions (that don’t sound like I’m a teacher)?
  • What can I ask that requires more than a yes/no/maybe answer?

The answer to those questions is: search online for a discussion guide (also called teacher guide or book club guide). In some cases the questions may sound academic, but not all. Some may prompt you to think of other questions.

Here’s an example from Candlewick’s Teacher Guide for Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo. The question as posed is:

Why do you think Beverly is so afraid of staying with Iola? What does this fear of acceptance show us about Beverly’s past?

If you haven’t read the book, you probably just want to know who Beverly and Iola are. You can ask who they are, whether/not they would be someone your child would befriend, and why or why not.

I recommend starting the search phrase with the book title (author optional) and then what you’re looking for: summary, discussion guide, book club questions, et al. That tends to get me higher quality options right up front.